SINGAPORE — With the number of people here in the above-65 age bracket projected to triple by 2030, moves to better protect the elderly, as well as those with special needs, from abuse and neglect are in the works.
Strengthening the service and legal frameworks to deal with such cases as well as intervening earlier are measures being looked at, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) yesterday in its response to the President’s Address. Social workers and lawyers whom TODAY spoke to welcomed such reinforcements, saying the move was a timely one. Last year, more parents applied for Personal Protection Orders against their children for physical or financial abuse, among other reasons.
Members of Parliament have also called for raising public awareness of elderly abuse and for the Government to introduce more laws to protect seniors. For instance, during the Committee of Supply debate in March, Dr Lily Neo called for laws that have “more teeth” to prosecute perpetrators.
Unlike countries such as the United States, which has the Elder Justice Act to protect the elderly from abuse, neglect and exploitation, Singapore does not have similar dedicated legislation — although the MSF has issued guidelines on how to identify such cases.
Instead, avenues for recourse are scattered across various statutes, such as the Women’s Charter Act, the Maintenance of Parents Act and the Mental Disorders and Treatment Act. Seniors can also protect themselves and their assets under the Mental Capacity Act, the Deceased’s Estate and Lasting Power of Attorney.
Having a more robust framework or a dedicated legislation would benefit seniors who are single or do not have family looking out for them, said Asia Law Corporation senior lawyer Harry Sim, whose practice focuses on legal rights for seniors. In addition, he suggested setting up an agency that looks after the dignity and interests of the elderly, similar to the Adult Protective Services in the US, which provides protective services to people above 65 and those with disabilities.
Mr Choo Jin Kiat, executive director of O’Joy Care Services, felt that more centres dealing with elderly abuse should be set up and more resources should be channelled into preventive work. “Abuse sometimes comes about due to the distress of the caregiver, and (identifying) such signs could help prevent the elderly from abuse,” he said.
Among other initiatives in the second half of the Government’s term, the MSF will increase its support and funding for the social service sector and ramp up efforts to groom the next generation of social service leaders. It will also roll out the Social Service Net to provide “seamless assistance” and facilitate long-term planning.